Accelerating the recovery of the European Eel

Well attended eel conference in Germany

The German eel-organization, Initiative zur Förderung des Europäischen Aales e.V. (IFEA), organized a successful eel-conference in Potsdam, close to Berlin. Scientists, NGO’s, Government and industry were updated on the eel population research and measures for improvement of the stock. Leading scientist Dr. Willem Dekker attributed the criticism concerning the eel population expressed by the NGO’s over the last few months. He stated: “Is the eel in danger of extinction? No. There are more eels than humans in Europe, they reproduce faster and in greater numbers. The advice from ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) on eel was not given because the eel is already threatened with extinction, but because the current form of exploitation is not sustainable”.

Scientist Dr. Uwe Brämick (lfB) demonstrated that restocking glass eels is an important prerequisite for the recovery of the eel population, based on research in the basin of the river Havel in Germany. Willem Dekker showed, based on historical developments, that glass eels and juvenile eels can contribute to the recovery of the eel population, if done in sufficient numbers. Restocking does have its risks – but not restocking has considerable risks too. His advice is that restocking with juvenile eels should take place at a significantly greater scale, or not at all – but not in insignificant numbers.

During the conference measures that the eel sector is taking to come to a full traceability and sustainability were presented. According to Andrew Kerr, Chairman of Sustainable Eel Group, France is key to a good management of the eel population: “80% of all the glass eel enters Europe trough France. When the French quota is properly set up and full traceability is reached, 60% of the current French quota could be used for restocking. This will directly eliminate illegal export to Asia and, at the same time, realise an incredible increase in restocking. A more sustainable use of the quota is in prospect”.

Alex Koelewijn, Chairman of DUPAN, substantiated Kerr’s story with figures and stressed the importance of European cooperation: “Eel is a European fish. The population problems can not be solved from one country only, but will have to be shared across Europe. Sustainability and increased eel population will eventually be possible through European cooperation between science, NGO’s and the eel industry. The amount of stakeholders that joined the conference shows how strongly we feel all about it. That became clear once more today and is underlined by the German membership of ESA”.

Willem Dekker concluded his presentation on the increase of the eel population with the words: “Wir schaffen das!”.